Bundaberg swimming sensation and Olympian Isaac Cooper has returned home for Christmas after securing five medals at the FINA World Swimming Championships.
Isaac thanked the Bundaberg community for its immense support as he met with local swimmers and fans at Norville Park Pool on Thursday morning.
Children sported Isaac’s 16th FINA World Swimming Championships medals as they rubbed shoulders with the humble 18-year-old athlete.
Isaac won gold in the Men 4×50 Freestyle Relay and the Men 4×100 Medley Relay, he took out silver in the Men 50 Backstroke and brought home bronze in both the Men 100 Backstroke and Men 4×50 Medley Relay.
Unfortunately Isaac was denied an individual gold medal after a false start in the men’s 50m backstroke final.
Isaac was the quickest of the group, finishing in 22.49sec to break his own junior world record, but unfortunately the swim did not count.
Despite the controversy, Isaac composed himself and gave the second race everything he had and came home with a silver behind American swimmer Ryan Murphy.
“After the 50m final, I was so upset, I wasn’t angry at anyone – I just was so upset,” Isaac said.
“I called my coach; he was crying, and I was crying.
“I was really surprised the next day I was still upset, but I had two races that day.
“I came into the pool, and I just switched, it was really strange, I went from being upset to being happy and I stayed that way for the rest of the meet.”
Isaac said there was a turning point for him during the FINA World Swimming Championships when he realised he had to do it for himself.
“At the start of the competition I was thinking I needed to redeem myself, I have lost so much, I need to prove myself to myself, my family and my country.
“I created a high-pressure environment around myself where I had to perform well.
“Whereas, after my individual events I just felt that I didn’t need to swim fast.
“I said to my teammates that I am going to swim this race to the absolute best of my ability and if that’s a 55 instead of a 49 then I am okay with that, but I will swim to the best of my ability and whatever happens, happens.
“My last race ended up being my fastest race and I had a great time doing it.”
Isaac mature beyond his years
Bundaberg Swim Academy senior coach Paul Simms said Isaac showed maturity beyond his years and he was a role model for not only the young children but for all.
“Isaac had some disappointments early on with the Commonwealth Games, I think he has learnt a lot from that despite the disappointments he has turned things around,” Paul said.
“He is mature beyond his years – we still have to remember he is still only 18 and the average age in the Australian swim team is 24 for males, so he is six years behind those guys.
“To do what he has done, in the manner he has done, I think we are very proud of him – he has shown maturity and humbleness.”
Paul said this shone through following the disappointment of losing a gold medal due to a false start at the World Championships.
“To his credit Isaac stood up and did it all again the next day and we are so proud of him.”
Bundaberg a special place for Isaac
Isaac said returning to the place he first learnt to swim was a time he would always treasure.
“It’s wonderful to come back here – I learnt how to swim here at BSA,” he said.
“I had Scottie (Hamlet), and then Paul (Simms) who took me to my age nationals and I got my first Australian record.
“I have a lot of history here in Bundaberg and I never want to forget my roots.
“That’s why I think it’s wonderful to come back and still see the squads here and the coaches who are still coaching the kids who may be on the Australian team one day.”
Isaac said he trained for about 40 hours each week and his words of advice for up-and-coming swimmers was to show dedication.
“You have to commit, you can’t just say that you want to do it and not fully commit to the sport,” he said.
“You have to enjoy yourself doing it – there has to be a balance. But you can’t be saying you want to have a high level while having other low levels around you.”
Isaac inspires children to follow their dreams
Bundaberg Swim Academy junior member Jonte Gledhill, his mum Karlee Bitcon and brother Bodhi were excited to reunite with Isaac and they reminisced about past experiences.
“When I was four Isaac helped me swim in the pool, and I had a video of that from five years ago,” Jonte said.
“It was fun to see how he has gone from helping me to going on to winning so many medals.
“He is a local hero for me – I have watched all of his races on television.”
Karlee said Isaac was always willing to help the younger club members when he lived in the region, and for him to come back and meet them all now showed his passion for the community and the sport.
“We knew he was good; he was amazing to watch – always exceptional,” she said.
“He asked if we had videos of Jonte now and really has an interest in supporting the kids.
“He is just so humble, and its so nice that he still comes back to support these kids, he has that relationship where he knows them and remembers them, so it is so nice he is willing to give his time for them again now.”